Some Direction

I was a little hazy on what I’d actually be doing this summer. Would I be helping someone else with her research? Would I be using data that was already collected? Or would I be messing around until I had the opportunity to head to Maine and Vermont to collect new data? It turns out I’m doing a little bit of each. There is an incredible amount of data being used for a matrix model that has been in the works longer than I’ve been at W&M, and I am helping sort through it, picking out funky pieces of data and marking them so they can be checked with the real trees when we take the trip to Maine. I am also using the current data to practice my modeling skills. One goal for the summer is having a functional model for the Maine data. I am using a statistical program, R, that is very different than Python ( the language I’ve used so far in my CS classes), and I spend a significant amount of time just trying to find proper syntax and functions for the things I want to do. Once more data is collected, there will be two years of data collected from the Vermont site, and I spend time this fall building a new model for a new set of data.

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Hi, I’m David McPherson and I’m doing research this summer with Charles Center funding.

The American chestnut used to be a dominant species of eastern forests in the US. It composed a significant portion of the canopy, and its nuts provided food for a variety of creatures, from rodents to humans. The introduction of the chestnut blight, which eliminated the nearly all canopy American chestnut trees, pre-dates modern forest ecology, and consequentially the significant impact the species had on the forest is not known. The chestnut is a flagship tree species, and for decades numerous groups have been trying to find ways to develop blight-resistant trees to reintroduce to the wild. For the reintroduction of blight-resistant trees to succeed, it is necessary to understand the ecology behind the chestnut. Some populations in New England have, so far, been spared the blight due to both isolation and the cold winter temperatures. While the blight has a presence in some populations, it has not yet been able to completely upset the ecology of these forests as it has done in warmer climates. This unique situation enables the modern study of forests containing chestnut trees.

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